Medicaid expansion would save Wisconsin $206M
MADISON — Wisconsin Democrats are keeping the pressure on Republican Gov. Scott Walker to expand Medicaid eligibility with a new report that shows the move would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars over the next three years.
Under the new federal health care law, the federal government would pay the full cost through 2016 of expanding Medicaid to all adults earning 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less, which translates to $16,105 for individuals and $32,913 for families of four. Federal coverage would decrease annually after that before settling at 90 percent in 2020.
The influx of federal aid would have saved Wisconsin $206 million in the current two-year budget if it had expanded Medicaid, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said in a memo prepared at the request of Sen. Jennifer Shilling, a La Crosse Democrat. If Walker agrees to the expansion in the 2015-17 state budget, the move would save the state between $261 million and $315 million depending on enrollment, it said.
Shilling said in a statement that Walker's refusal to accept the federal money was hurting Wisconsin residents.
"Putting partisan politics over people's lives is one of the reasons that families in Wisconsin continue to struggle to make ends meet," said Shilling, a member of the Legislature's budget committee. "Too many Wisconsin residents and working families are finding it difficult to get ahead because Republicans have blocked access to affordable health care."
Walker has defended his decision not to expand, saying he doubts the federal government would honor its commitment to cover the costs. The governor's spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, said in an email to The Associated Press that if anyone thinks the debt-saddled federal government won't renege on its promises "they are not living in reality."
The Fiscal Bureau's memo represents another salvo in Democrats' campaign to pressure governors who have rejected the expansion to reconsider. President Barack Obama's administration released a report in July saying expansion would improve access to care, contain people's costs and create jobs. The report said expansion in Wisconsin would mean coverage for another 120,000 people by 2016 and reduce the number of people facing catastrophic out-of-pocket costs or borrowing to pay medical bills.